Larry Rigsby MD is an Internal Medicine physician who practices in
Chattanooga, TN. He is a Mountaineer and has a great interest in High Altitude
Medicine and Physiology. His expeditions include
Denali, Everest, Ama Dablam and
I was very distressed to read some of the news re climbers
left for dead or bypassed on Everest.
Thank God we have climbers such as Dan Mazur, Tap Richards
and Doug Tumminello who are willing to assist in rescues, with Dan recently
giving up his summit attempt in the process.
As a physician it never ceases to amaze me how many
mountaineers esp. guides are all "doctors". They all seem to be up to date on
the latest in chemical mountaineering tricks e.g. enhancing supplements, meds
etc. Don't get me wrong there are some very knowledgeable individuals, some
certified as First Responders. But where are they during these situations?
That would be equivalent to a physician not responding to an auto accident or
in flight emergency.
I don't think we can say do nothing due to the altitude or
terrain in a lot of these cases. Both Dan and Taps rescues were at very high
Someone can be in extremis or appear moribund but are still
salvageable. There have been numerous accounts of individuals who have by all
rights appeared dead but have been revived fully especially when they
are hypothermic which is very common in this environment. We have a saying in
Internal Medicine that you are not dead unless you are warm and dead.
I believe that it is our duty and responsibility as
mountaineers to assist our fallen climbers to the best of our ability, even if
this aborts our summit attempt. I think we all know what to do i.e. give
fluids if possible, warm the individual, give oxygen, consider decadron and
call for assistance. I think a golden rule to be taught to all First
Responders and capable mountaineers is to #1- First Respond! Thanks,
Dr Larry Rigsby
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